Thursday, September 26, 2019

Rebuilding the Fortifications

 It is unwise to lower one's defenses before an enemy whose only option is your destruction. In fact, when one is up against such an enemy, good defenses and fortifications are necessary. Otherwise one's enemies will despoil everything one loves.

Of all of the troublesome aspects of modernism that has found itself within the Church is the aspect of the dismissal of the devil, the demonic, and evil.  It is the flip side of the coin to the denigration of the transcendent that has become the norm in most Catholic liturgies as practiced, in our education systems, and in the waning of the devotional life. To downplay the transcendent is to downplay both the godly and the demonic and tame them into merely human overreactions to physical or mental phenomenon. As our liturgies became people-focused, so the demonic was regulated to scary movies and parlor games. The devil has been more than pleased for such a development.

I have been reading Fr. Gabrielle Amorth's " An Exorcist Tells His Story." Towards the end of the book he bemoans the dismissal of the demonic on behalf of the clergy and the unwillingness to see the demonic as a clear and present danger to the flock. Granted, there are many psychological disorders that were once treated as demonic possession, but we have now gone to the opposite extreme where everything is a psychological disorder and not demonic. Even in our blessings, exorcisms were dropped. The use of blessed salt and blessed oil got dropped. Fr. Amorth remarks in his book how much more effective Confession and Eucharist are.  But we have seen sharp declines in both. It is as if we have taken all of our ramparts and defenses and leveled them to where the demonic is having free reign to trouble us.

I am not going to assign blame for how we got here. It is counter-productive.  It suffices to say we are here now.

What do we do? We rebuild our defenses!  Inasmuch as we need to refocus Mass on the transcendent do we need to acknowledge and actively thwart the demonic. Simply dismissing the existance of the demonic will not dimiss the demonic; in fact it will only encourage the demonic. Here is what I purpose that can be done now.

1) Shut off the spigot!  The devil cannot make us do anything.  He can tempt.  He can influence. That's it. We need to look at the influences we allow into our lives. First, we expell anything of the occult from our lives and homes. Oujia boards, tarot cards, and other things used to conjure spirits have no place in a Catholic home. The use of mediums, seances, and other people associated with the occult are not to be toyed with. These are the most obvious sources.  However, take a good long look at what is being heard, watched, read, and played when it comes to TV, music, books, movies, and video games. What are you exposing yourself and your children to? What is being encouraged? What is being taught?   The devil isn't going to coming at you looking like a horned beast but as a shining angel.

2) Get back to regular use of the sacraments! The sacramental life of the Church is there is assist us with God's grace to get in and stay in a state of grace.  These are the ultimate ramparts and defenses against the influence of the demonic. Regular confession is necessary.  Frequent reception of the Eucharist builds our defenses. Fr. Amorth remarks on the power of these two sacraments towards the fight against the demonic.

3) Develop a healthy devotional and prayer life! Pray the rosary.  Develop spiritual reading. Pray. Ask for the saints' and the Blessed Mother's intercession in thwarting the devil.  Who better to ask that those who succeeded in being victorious over Satan and his demons? Pray the Divine Office. Spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. See each and every one of these as defenses against the devil and his minions.  It  will help us be watchful, intentional,  and aware.

4) Use sacramentals!  I caution here with warning you NOT to treat sacramentals like talismans or good look charms.  The use of sacramentals is to remind us of God's presence in our lives and to keep us focused on Him. The use of sacramentals in troubled times and fearful times is good as long as they are not being used as charms.

5)Make regular use of fasting and abstinence! Is it any wonder that the same time we dropped exorcisms we also wildly downplayed the use of fasting and abstinence? Both of these detach us from worldliness and are excellent weapons in the fight against the demonic. In Matthew 17:21 Jesus tells us some demons can only be fought through fasting and prayer. The selflessness of prayer, fasting, and abstinence works against the complete selfish nature on the demonic.

For many blessings I now use the Rituale Romanum specifically because exorcisms and prayers for the protection against evil are in those blessings. At the end of every Mass in my parishes, we pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer.  Blessed salt and holy water are always available at my parishes. I hand out St. Benedict medals like Christmas candy. If we are to set our eyes on Christ, we must be aware that what He fought against, we fight against.  We do well to not dismiss the demonic, but to use the grace of God and the tools of the Church to be our protection and our defense against such powers.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Losing a Patrimony

In 567 BC, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed, along with Jerusalem, by the Babylonians.  The temple had stood for over three centuries, built when the Kingdom of Israel was united and at the height of its power. Over the three succeeding centuries, the kingdom slowly collapsed.  First, internal dissension born of the pride and faithlessness of Solomon in his old age and of his foolish son, Rehoboam, the united kingdom divided into the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south.  Both kingdoms would lose all sense of their covenant with God, with the northern kingdom embracing idolatry immediately, and the southern kingdom going back and forth, from reign to reign, until the time of the Major Prophets when the Valley of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem was polluted with the stench of the worship of idols.  More and more, Israel was becoming indistinguishable from their pagan neighbors. Leadership largely failed. The great patrimony granted them by God, built up by faithful men, was now to be taken from them.  In embracing the worldly idols they had shoved God's protecting hand away and paid the consequence for it.  God would not let them profane His Holy name and demand His benefits and protection. Corruption flowed from the Valley of Hinnom to the Temple Mount to the palace of the kings.  Israel had placed its hopes not in God, but in alliances with foreign powers and pagan gods to stave off threats.

When one reads Ezekiel 22:25-27, God lays the blame for Judah's downfall squarely on the leadership who had abandoned the covenant.  In verse 26, we read, " Her priests have despised my law, and have defiled my sanctuaries: they have put no difference between holy and profane: nor have distinguished between the polluted and the clean: and they have turned away their eyes from my sabbaths, and I was profaned in the midst of them."  We know that the prophets were persecuted for telling of God's anger with the House of Judah for their worldliness and infidelity.  For their lack of fidelity, the patrimony given them by God was stripped away from them and they were exiled for 70 years.  God had not written them off.  Like a parent, though, if His children would not listen Him, He would take away their toys to get their attention and call them back to faithfulness.  I fully believe the Catholic Church in the west finds herself at such a crossroads.

By the Numbers
  It is no secret that the practice of the faith in Europe and the Americas is in a downward spiral. In the United States, the numbers are terrifying (or they should be)  Although the numbers of Americans who self-identify as Catholics keeps going up (largely due to an influx of Latin Americans), almost every measure of participation is sharply down, Catholics are more likely to believe as the world believes when it comes to moral issues, and the number of weekly Church-going Catholics continues to plummet to less than 1 in 4 Catholics.

The last 20 years have been gravely difficult for the Church in the United States.  A Church of immigrants who labored hard to build churches, schools, hospitals, and other structures, are finding all that blood, sweat, and tears being auctioned off because the buildings stand empty or to pay for settlements levied against them in civil lawsuits having to do with the ongoing sexual scandals and cover-ups. That bleeding is far from over. In New York, new legislation passed regarding the statue of limitations for child victims of sexual abuse.  Within hours, starting at midnight of the effect date, hundreds of lawsuits were filed ( ) with the diocesan insurers balking at what is sure to be huge settlements ( Things look grim.  One can easily imagine other states following New York's lead.

Such press coverage and lawsuits, I would imagine, will only serve to drive the numbers of practicing Catholics even lower as their faith is shaken more and more in leaders who seemingly do not have the good of the flock at heart. One can imagine it will be driven still lower as the patrimony gets sold off to pay for the misdeeds of a minority of priests and the covering-up of those misdeeds by many prelates, who ironically enough covered-up the crimes because they were afraid of losing the patrimony.  God didn't select the Babylonians to scourge Israel for its iniquities because the Babylonians were themselves just. They weren't. They were Israel's enemy and as Israel pushed God aside, they were the plague that destroyed them.  Those going after the Church aren't selected by God because they are more righteous, but because we became worldly and pushed Him aside.  The Babylonians are at the cathedral doors and we put them there.

How Did This Happen?

For the House of Judah, the central reason that they witnessed the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple was their faithlessness. They acted as their pagan neighbors did.  They worshiped their gods. They held their pagan beliefs.  They became their own enemy; an enemy that so rotted them from within that by the time the Babylonians came, there was little left to defend.

For decades now, Catholic catechesis and faith has been in a downfall.  That downfall has fueled the numbers we now see in regards to the attitudes and beliefs of Catholics. There is an old Greek saying, 'The fish rots at the head first."  The clergy of the West has long adopted worldly ways of thinking and believing.  They are more likely to agree with progressive policies of the left.  They are more likely to find sophistry to protect such polluted thought. They are more likely to cuddle up to politicians than with the prophetic voices of our time.  They are likely to dismiss, sometimes with great scorn, the teaching of the Church and her Magisterium, and push for laxity on a host of moral issues.

In the local parish, the priest who preached for covenant fidelity got replaced with Fr. Feelgood.  Obligations and rules were seen as impinging on freedom and archaic trappings of an oppressive age.  Liturgy moved from being centered on God to centered on man, more often than not bordering on a cult of personality of the priest who was more likely to want to be liked than to be truthful. Great harm was done by the ultimate act of cowardice and spiritual malpractice: "just follow your own conscience". This would be fine and dandy had the clergy bothered to form consciences in union with the teachings of Christ. They did not. They left truth to be a matter of subjectivism and relativism.  They fed their flock the very same poison they ingested. Like the false prophets of the Old Testament, they misled the flock and persecuted true prophets. Like Pashur persecuting Jeremiah because Jeremiah actually prophesied faithfully (Jer 20:1-6), so many within the Church persecute the Jeremiahs of our own age.  Pashur's persecution, though, could not stave off Judah's downfall.

The main culprit for our agonies in the West is as old as the Old Testament itself.  Read again the highlighted quote from Ezekiel above.  The Church of the West is too worldly.  For example: last week  a disturbing study came out regarding the core Catholic belief of transubstantiation/Real Presence, with only 28% of self-identified Catholics saying they know and believe this teaching. That number should terrify clerics who know they will have to stand before God to answer for a starved flock. The response from our leaders in this country?  Largely crickets. Let's make them read more.  That will do it. No questions about whether the rampant abuses we have allowed in Mass have had an effect.  No questions about the belief of the clergy. No critical calls for a wholesale renewal. It faded in and out like a putrid scent; a scent that many just hope will go away on its own.  What is that scent, you ask?  It is the scent of decomposition of a dying body. Our bishops are much more likely to weigh in on political issues than such core issues as this.

Catholic politicians who openly thumb their nose at Church teachings are rarely reprimanded, rarely told to not take Communion until they have changed, and are cozied up to for photo ops. Our leadership in this country reminds me of the Judean kings, who instead of trusting in God, made alliances with foreign powers who either failed them or turned on them and destroyed them. Worldly leaders will do that. I believe this has contributed to cheapening of the Eucharist. If a Catholic politician can believe immoral things, why can't the person in the pew? Immorality and infidelity constantly build upon one another. Abandoning the pews and the core beliefs are a natural consequence.  It is worth noting that these same politicians will be all too happy to feast on the carcass of the Church's patrimony as the former allies of Judah feasted on the spoils of Jerusalem's destruction.

All Is Not Lost

We might well see a severe dent put into the patrimony of the Church in this country.  We might well look in horror and shame as did those leaving Jerusalem for exile as they looked upon the billowing smoke of their beloved city and temple.  However, we must remember the rest of the story.

Jerusalem fell and the temple was destroyed to be sure. But the Jewish faith did not die. In fact, it ending up spreading. It's communities spread throughout the pagan world became the seedbeds from which the Apostles started their preaching about Christ. The people were allowed to return and rebuild.  The temple rose and fell a few times before it was destroyed altogether.  The one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross made the temple obsolete. The Church Militant will exist until Christ comes again.  It will persevere.  However, that perseverance is based on her ability to be faithful.  If chastisements are necessary to get our attention and keep us from final destruction, they come at the hands of a loving God. God made clear that the Babylonians would pay for the destruction they leveled against Judah in Isaiah 13.  So those who have lashed out against the Church to destroy her for profit,  expediency, or sport will also have to face God. We will survive.

Survival depends upon whether we are ready and willing to lay aside our worldliness and turn back in faithfulness to God. We cannot be insurgents against the Kingdom of God and God's children at the same time. In how we worship, in how we live, in how and what be believe, in how our consciences are formed, in how we instruct, and in how we witness to the world, we must show a profound trust in God's will for us. Our leaders must look to our core beliefs first; a people who don't believe in the Eucharist cannot be masked by a group of social justice warriors.

We must pray.  We must demand better of our leaders.  We must demand better of ourselves. We must not still the tongue of the true prophet no matter how much conversion he calls for us to undergo insofar as he is teaching in union with God.  We must make our worship focused on God again. We must be willing to be despised by the worldly, the sophists, the immoral, and the elite. We must be willing to be of no account to the powerful.  We must be willing to become like a child, as Christ tells us.  Hubris got us into this mess; humility will lead us out.

Jesus tells us that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  We do well  to remember that, teach that, live that, and be willing to suffer for that. Will our faith be shaken? Yes, of course it will.  But as Hillaire Belloc once remarked, "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine - but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight."             

Monday, August 12, 2019

Catholic and The Eucharist: What Happened?

Last week, Pew Research put out a study about Catholic Belief and the Eucharist.  The reaction has been varied. As much as I would like to believe that this will be a clarion call, I am doubtful.

By the Numbers

First: The numbers: 50% of self-described Catholics say they know that the Church teaches that the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Of this group, about half do not believe this teaching. It would be a likely consequence that the more one goes to Church the more likely one believes in the Catholic teaching of Real Presence/transubstantiation. One would quickly reason that someone who believes this teaching would be drawn to Mass. Of those who go regularly, only 63% believe that The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. The study shows that those below the age of 59 are 70%+ likely to believe the Eucharist is mere symbol. Those who are more educated are more likely to believe in Transubstantiation, even then, though, it is a high of 37%

Certainly this belief would be reflected in the percentage of Catholics who go to Mass.  According to Center for Applied Research in Apostolate (aka CARA) out of Georgetown, in 2018, only 21.1% of Catholics attend Mass weekly.  This is down from 54.1% in 1970.  Catholics who go at least once a month have fallen from 71.3% in 1970 to 54.9% in 2018.  Participation in the sacramental life of the Church as a whole has fallen greatly in that same time period.

Catholics who have their children educated has also fallen precipitously.  With the exception of those in Catholic Higher education, which has gone up in this time period, children in parish based religious education programs and parochial school has been halved over the period between 1970 to 2018.  That said, the number of self-identified Catholics has risen since 1970 from 54.1 million in 1970 to 76.3 million in 2018  Only 68.7 million are even connected to a parish. . Another 26.1 million were raised Catholic but no longer self-identify as Catholics.

That belief in the Real Presence is a s low as it is should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the studies.  Most pastors can tell you that less than half of the people they have on their parish rosters come to Church with any kind of regularity.

No Easy Answers

In the many responses to the newly released study, there have been many reasons brought forth as to why Catholic belief has fallen to such a low.  The cry from the USCCB is that we need better catechesis. There is great truth in that.  However, that is like saying the Titanic needs more lifeboats after the ship has hit the iceberg. For several decades now, we have known that we need better catechesis. We need better and more faithful material.  This is all true. However, when about half of those who know the teaching still do not believe, catechesis is not enough.

Brian Holdsworth, in his vlog response to this study, points out that we are dealing with a hard teaching.  When Jesus introduces the teaching in John 6, many of His disciples leave Him and go back to their former ways of life. That the Son of Man would be sacrificed on the Cross and His flesh and blood needed to be eaten by those for whom it was sacrificed was a hard teaching to take. It said much about His own mission, about the state of humanity, and what Jesus would expect of His disciples. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. Without it, as Jesus says, we have no life within us.  Belief in the Eucharist is not a nice added extra for following Christ, it is absolutely essential!  There is something that is deeply moving but quite unsettling about the Eucharist. It cuts viscerally into our minds, hearts, and souls.

So why are we not believing?

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

St. Prosper of Aquatiane remarked in the 5th century about the connection between how we pray (lex orandi) and how we believe (lex credendi). For much of Christianity, literacy was low.  One simply could not hand a few books to you (which were expensive beyond words anyway) and have you learn. The churches were built to tell a story of Christianity through its art, stained glass, and statues/icons.  Churches were built to be more than a 'worship space', but a place where one's senses were carried beyond this world to the transcendent. The music used was singular to worship. Everything was designed to draw one into a great mystery. The focus was God...not the congregation nor the clergy.

Be honest.  When you walk into your parish on Sunday, what are you drawn into? Where is the focus?  When you look at the body of the Church, what strikes you as central?  When you listen to the words of the songs sung, where is the focus and what are the beliefs being expressed?  Is there any real difference between what you hear on the radio and in Church? Are you drawn to the Transcendent God or kept firmly in the temporal order?

I argue that when we are kept in the temporal order, we lose as reason for even coming to Church. If the way we pray focuses on the congregation or the clergy, we have as disoriented prayer. We may well prefer the temporal because it is familiar and comfortable, but if we feel no connection with a transcendent God, why go? I can get good feeling from being out in nature.  I do, in fact. I can good feeling from a good meal, a pleasant conversation, a night out with friends, or so on. Certainly worship of God should lead us to a place of transcendence.  That, however, can be disquieting and unnerving at first if we are temporal minded people.

When we come into a building that is largely indistinguishable from a theater we will bring what we bring into a theater; the expectation to be entertained. When the music and preaching are mundane, banal, ordinary, or commonplace, we feel no real difference between heaven and earth. As Pope Benedict XVI pointed in saying that beauty is necessary in liturgy as beauty is an attribute of God. Beauty is meant to lift us up beyond ourselves and be fixed on another.

Over the past 50 years, what transpired in Mass, from architecture to music to ritual to art became more and more commonplace.  In some cases it became cheap and disposable. The primary way of catechesis for when it came to sacraments, the lex orandi, became banal and uninspiring, which has reflected itself in the way we believe, the lex credendi.

Handling the Beloved

You can tell much about how much one treasures something by the way they handle it. A surgeon who understands that his every move matters and shows great care will handle the surgical instruments and organs with great care out of respect for what is being done.  A mother who loves her child will handle that newborn with great diligence and care as they treasure that new life given them. How we handle something says a great deal about what we believe.

I believe that you can tell two things about a priest rather quickly within Mass. You will come to know his belief and spirituality in how he preaches. More often than not, a homilist than regularly lacks substance or challenge will be a priest who lacks substance or challenge in his own spiritual life.  Secondly, you will be able to tell whether the priest actually believes that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ by how we handles the Sacred Species and the attention he pays to. These moments are perhaps the most instructive for catechetical purposes.  I have seen priest who handle the Sacred Species with great care and who take their time when elevating the Sacred Species and in how they give Communion. I have also seen priests who have treated the Sacred Species as if they were short-order cooks, slinging them about as if they were common and unworthy of reflection or care.

One must also look at how the priests handle the beloved, that is the flock of their parish. Part of the scandal brought forth in the sexual scandals of the Church is one I have frequently remarked about:  How can a man believe that what he holds is the Body and Blood of Christ yet do such outrageously sinful acts as well?  Before I get accused of the heresy of Donatism (a belief that the validity of a sacrament depends upon the holiness of the priest), it is another example of lex orandi, lex credendi. If there is reasonable doubt that the priest doesn't believe either because of how he handles the Sacred Species or because of a critically sinful lifestyle, why, then, would those in his care believe?

The needed catechesis is more than matter of books and videos; it is in how the belief in Real Presence is comported by those who lead. Mass is the ultimate catechesis on the Eucharist.  Its words, actions, music, and ritual are called to point to the belief that at Mass we come into the heavenly court.  If it is not experienced there, then all the written words and videos in the world will do little more than confuse or frustrate.

The Search Has not Gone

Many of those who quit coming to Mass have not quit looking. A minority will dismiss religion altogether (atheism) or deny the existence of a personal god (agnosticism).  Many will try and find meaning in the material world.  Many more will describe themselves as 'spiritual but not religious.'  Some will dabble in other forms of Christianity.  Others will dabble in other religions. Oftentimes they will have an sadness or animosity towards Catholicism.  Maybe some will identify a teaching.  My take is that their disappointment is in their experience of the Church not being what it says it is engenders that anger.

They will search.  Many will not come back for fear of being burned again. Some don't know quite what they are looking for. However, if they do come back across the threshold and find the same banality or hypocrisy they found before they will never come back.  I posit that should the come back and see a true and abiding belief in Christ in the Eucharist that is witnessed by word and ritual, by the life and attentiveness of the priest, and by a community focused on the transcendent so as to convert build up the temporal, they are more likely to stay.

The battle is far from over.  The sheep are not lost forever.

What Now?

If the Church in this country wants to right this ship, she must look at how Mass is celebrated and how Catholics are taught about the faith.  We must lay aside the catechesis that was watered-down and made it seem that Catholicism was whatever you were comfortable with. We must look at how Mass is celebrated and asks ourselves whether what we are doing teaches the Real Presence. Does it point to transcendent quality of the Eucharist?  Where does it point us? Lex orandi, lex credendi!

We must evaluate our teaching tools.  Are they quality or banal?  Do they lead or mislead? Where do they point?  This is more than catechetical materials.  It includes music, art, architecture, ritual, homiletics, and other aesthetics.        

All this said, beautiful churches with beautiful rituals are not enough if the parish is not a place of devotion, charity, compassion, mercy, evangelization, and prayer!  The Real Presence in the Eucharist is given to us for a reason directly connected to the mission of the Church: to go make disciples of the nations!  If discipleship is not lived by those who do believe and receive the Body of Christ, then it makes others wonder what is the use of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

This leads to a final point: a sinful heart will be blinded to truth.  It is no wonder that the collapse of belief in the Eucharist has been accompanied by a even greater collapse in Confession. The state of grace is necessary for the effective reception of Communion. Many parishes access to Confession is stingy to non-existent.  We must once again allow our parishes to be field hospitals; that is, places where those wounded by sin can find healing.

I would like to think that perhaps the Church in the United States would finally see the dire straits she has placed her flock in and extract herself from worldly concerns and get her house in order. I don't see much desire for that because it will be a difficult road. Pray that we wake up.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Why Camp Maccabee Now?

Scandals within an institution have a tendency to cast suspicion on any and all parts of that institution. The Catholic Church is not exempt from that. Furthermore, any thing to do with youth, especially young men (who made up the majority of victims in the sexual abuse scandal within the Church), comes under additional scrutiny. It should.  The camp that I lead is no exception.

Why then, should you fiscally support, prayerfully support, or send your high school son to this Camp?  Why not just shut it down in such an atmosphere?

Why Camp Maccabee was Founded

Let's start with the why the camp was founded. The camp was founded in 2009.  The scars of the opening salvo of the scandal where still very much in mind. Many within the Church's ministerial roles had adopted the procedures put forth by the Dallas Charter on the Protection of  Youth.  There was a palatable fear, though, among those who worked with youth about working with youth. Founding a camp to work with the one group that had been the major target of the abuse was a risky proposition.

That said, the camp was founded because so many young men within our Church were failing to grow into leaders. I noticed this with doing recruitment for priestly vocations and in working with young couples for matrimony. The idea of virtue was not where one would hope for those looking at a sacramental vocation. I saw this, as well, in the work I was doing with annulments. We saw young men drifting. We also noticed that these young men wanted little to do with the Church.  Many were drawn to sports. I noticed this long before 2002.

I started paying attention to the message we give young men in our classrooms and churches.  Their coaches, if they play sports, challenge them.  They tell them to give their best, push themselves, and succeed. Their coaches, the good one at least, were pushing teamwork, fellowship, and interdependence. These, of course, are the things that make a great team a great team. What were they hearing from us?  Be nice. Be nice ad naseum. We were not challenging them.  We were not calling them to faith.  We weren't calling them to heroism or greatness. They needed us to sound more like a coach and less like a children's TV program.   We were getting the young male leadership we were forming.  

What Do We Do?

The Camp is a Sunday through Friday camp. That is not a lot of time in a young man's life.  That is 117 hours of the 8736 hours that young man has throughout a year.  That is time to sow a few seeds. We have to make the time count.

First, we realize that most young men have loads of energy.  We use that to our advantage much like a coach does. The days include some type of expending of physical energy, all of which has some deeper lesson.  Some activities are meant to build teamwork and interdependence. We want to teach them that building a team means bring out the best in each other and lending help to those who are deficient in an area. They have a warrior dash (mile long obstacle course), low ropes course, rock climbing, and archery to help build up that sense of teamwork. They have a 7 mile float trip to build up a sense of comradery. They learn to fly fish as a lesson in patience.

Second, we realize in the midst of these activities, we must plants those seeds of virtue.  We see masculinity as a matter of growing in the corporal and theological virtues. We will use some text through the week to drive this home. We will sprinkle it through small talks and homilies. We tell them that being a leader is learning to virtuously serve and not be served. You want to talk about a message that flies in the face of the causes of the abuse scandal in the Church!  A man of virtue doesn't abuse.  He doesn't prey on his flock. He protects them.

Third, we realize that they must understand that it not merely by their own efforts, or even the efforts of their team, that they succeed.  Without God, their motives, however noble they be, will fall short.  Prayer is central to the camp.  To be a leader in the Church, whether it be a s a layman or as a cleric, requires a selfless man of God. Daily mass, Morning, Evening, and Night prayer, are part of the daily schedule. Time for Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and such are scattered throughout the week. One cannot be a virtuous leader in the Church without a prayerful relationship with God.

We make clear that Christ and His Church call them to excellence...that each young man is called to virtue.  If they understand this, then the type of husband, dad, or priest they will be is greatly effected.

Why Support Us?

Not every young man who passes through the Camp gets it.  I would like to tell you they each do, but that is not the case. That might seem a odd thing to say.  The camp understands that the worlds these young men come from shift. We only have them for 5 and a half days. The Governing Board of the Camp keeps evaluating what works and what doesn't work.  We keep looking at how we can be better.

The camp, from its inception, has been completely (maybe even militantly) compliant with the Dallas Charter.  No person who interacts with these young is allowed to do so until they have done the required Protecting God's Children/Virtus training.  Staff is vetted.  Staff is warned that any immoral interaction will be treated with such and criminal behavior will be directly referred to local law enforcement immediately. We run a tight ship.  This year, we are instituting better guidelines in the training of staff and procedures for discipline.

The leadership of the Camp receives no payment for their duties. A modest stipend is offered to our college age staff as a recognition that most have to take time off of necessary jobs to help us. Monies raised go to the running of the camp and the upkeep of material needed for the camp.

The camp holds fast to the Deposit of the Faith.  What we teach is fully in line with the teachings of the Church.  Both in liturgical practice and in materials used, we do not diverge from the Church. Anyone who supports us should know that we don't monkey around with, water down, or rebel against any teaching of the Church, including her sexuality morality. We want to raise men of virtue, not worldly hedonists.  

Why Send Your Son?

I tell the parents who have children in my parochial school or PSR/CCD programs that we view ourselves as partners with you in the Catholic formation of your children. I know many of you reading want to raise young virtuous men who will be the leaders God calls them to be.  If you son is called to matrimony, I know you want to raise a son who will be an awesome and faithful husband and an awesome dad who will teach his children to be leaders as well. If your son is called to priesthood, I know you want a son who will be seen as a true virtuous leader who will protect and provide for whatever flock is assigned him. We, at Camp Maccabee, want that as well!

We want leaders.  Your son needs to hear that from his church.  Your doesn't need to be nice by his church, he needs to be told to be heroic. He needs to be rallied to virtue.  He needs to be told and shown a path of relationship with Christ.

The camp is not for everyone.  It is a physically demanding camp. We do adjust for some limitations. However, even then, we challenge as much as we can. No electronic devices are allowed.  No phones, no tablets, no portable music or gaming devices. There are some disciplinary problems that might make the camp not an option.  We will work with what we get, but 5 days is not enough to shift an entire lifetime.  It is a moment to sow godly seed.

Details, Details, Details...

The camps for 2019 are June16th to 21st, June 22nd  to 28th, and July 21st to 26th.  The camper needs to be there by 1PM on Sunday and will be released at noon on Friday. We are based out of St. Robert, Missouri. We spend two nights elsewhere.  One night is in Camdenton, Mo.  The other night is at Montauk State Park near Licking, Missouri.

The cost of the camp is $150.00 per camper.  No young man will be turned away from the camp because of funds.  The actual cost per camper last year was $483. The difference comes from generous contributors.  That includes everything necessary for the camp: food, transportation, equipment, venues, junior staff, and insurance.  While we are connected with the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, we receive no funding from them nor do we ask from funding from them.

While we have been able to take some young men with milder physical limitations and take young men who are higher on the Autism spectrum, we are not equipped to take anything more challenging.

No camp is perfect.  Some young men have loved this experience.  Some have hated it. We do our level best to make this a strong, spiritual, and positive experience.  More information can be found at our website  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Of Holy Mother Church

I had a discussion with my spiritual director yesterday about the recent scandals in the Church. While not defending any of the malfeasance,  he stated that many of the bishops and clergy were do what they were doing because they believe they are protecting Holy Mother Church.  It led to a discussion about what was meant by that.  Both of us think that there are many laypeople, priests, and bishops who first see Holy Mother Church as a collection of buildings, wealth, and other earthly structures. I can honestly say I have never seen Holy Mother Church as merely earthly structures, building, or hierarchy. They are her patrimony to be sure.  They serve a purpose. However, I have always seen Holy Mother Church as the beliefs, teachings, sacraments, and what we refer to as the Deposit of the Faith.  Holy Mother Church has had to forego her patrimony many times.  Her patrimony is usually laid waste in every persecution. From Rome to Elizabethan England to ISIS controlled territories, historically her churches have been destroyed and her hierarchy killed.  Yet she remains.  She remained in the catacombs or Rome.  She remained in the barns and hidden rooms of England. If the pressing RICO act investigations into the Church were to decimate the physical structures of the Church in this country, Holy Mother Church would remain.

I am not saying Holy Mother Church isn't being battered.  She most certainly has been and continues to be.  But the battering doesn't come in the form of dilapidated buildings long abandoned nor closed seminaries and convents.  It is coming from what emptied those buildings and caused property to have to be sold to pay the debt of lawsuits. It is what leads to the suspicion, disregard, and even potential criminal charges being leveled against priests and bishops. When the Deposit of  the Faith is assailed, that is where real damage is done. The Deposit of the Faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church, are the soul of the Church.  Without it, no mater how beautiful the structures or how powerful her bishops, when the Deposit of the Faith is attacked Holy Mother Church suffers.

How is Holy Mother Church attacked?

She has been severely damaged by neglect. The work of evangelization has suffered greatly.  It failed when the primary form of education fell into a disorder of the validity of faith being validated by how a teaching made you feel.  If a teaching challenged, then permission was given by clerics to ignore the teaching or adapt it to what was comfortable.  How on earth did we go from the sanctity of marriage and family life to inviting the demonic presence of artificial birth control, homosexuality, pornography, and such being not merely turned a blind eyed but to be given permission?  Too many clerics worried about being approved of rather than protecting both Holy Mother Church and the sheep of their flock. Sometimes it was done because the desire to build Church buildings, schools, new departments at a university; truth was overwhelmed by the desire to build earthly kingdoms and expand power.

If Holy Mother Church was wrong about sexuality and family life, what else was she wrong about?  Is she wrong about Mass?  Gosh, maybe that might fuel both the rampant disbelief in the Eucharist, the decline in Mass attendance, the decline in clergy, and the shifting of Mass from Divine worship to bad theatrical productions?   What about confession and sin? Might the selling of the Deposit result in the nosedive of confessions and the disbelief in personal sin? No wonder the shift from personal sin to corporate sin took place!

Now, anything the Church teaches seems to be automatically disbelieved.  Pick your teaching want to ignore. Want to justify your belief in Social Darwinism, throw the corporal and spiritual works of mercy out the door.  Want to justify your belief in eugenics? Throw the teachings of human sexuality out the window. Want the worship of God to be more about the worship of you?  Throw the sacraments out! This is where Holy Mother Church is damaged.  Here is where she suffers.

To my brother clerics who have sold out the Deposit of the Faith to some other advantage, whether it be personal notoriety or accumulation of wealth,  to just keep people off your back, or to build or maintain: Not one brick of one church building enters the Kingdom of Heaven. Not one vestment, regardless of how grand,  tacky, or even creepy they are will enter the kingdom. There will be no Vatican nor chancery in heaven.  All of these things will no longer be needed. All these things, like our preaching, teaching, and witness are to point to heaven.

Every bit of damage that Holy Mother Church suffers is a direct result of a Judas moment: that moment where we decide that the Church can be compromised for my own personal gain.  What on earth goes through a cleric's mind to prey on his own flock in order to get some sense of sexual rush or power?  Can you be worried about the faith and prey on believers at the same time?  Why didn't bishops immediately put themselves between the flock and the predator, even if the predator was one of his own priest? I will wager that one cleric who has his Judas moment will aid and abet another cleric in their Judas moments...which is itself a Judas moment.  Why would a cleric tell a parishioner to engage in a behavior that will harm them?  Is it to be liked?  Is it to be thought of as relevant and cool?  Is that what your 30 pieces of silver are going to buy you?

The damage doesn't just come from the clergy.  Parents will teach their children the same kind of toxic lessons for the same self-serving rewards. The parent, for example, who teaches his or her children the unimportance of Mass is usually a parent that believes that themselves. The parent who teaches their children that what makes you happy or gets you ahead (sports, money, for example) is usually the parent who has done so themselves. The parent who hands their son the condom with the attitude that he's going to do it anyway is usually the parent who has bought into that reasoning. What do you buy with the thirty pieces of silver? Sleeping in?  Being thought of as being relevant and cool?

If we want to turn this around, if we truly want to protect Holy Mother Church, then we have to accept the following:

1) We have to repent.  To repent means to turn from evil and embrace the good. We must be able to identify our Judas moments and repent of them.  That means we must make amends for our Judas moments.  If that means we lose part of the patrimony of the Church, then that is what it means.  Notice, God never let the People of Israel keep the gains of their sins.

2)We have to embrace and teach the truth and nothing but the truth.  We have to accept that teaching the truth will bring persecution.  People will walk away angry.  They did from Jesus.  If we are following Him, some will walk away from us as well.

3)We must live so as to point to heaven.  Our job is not to be popular, honored, or comfortable.  We must be willing to risk everything to engage in the faith.

How did Catholicism survived the persecutions of Elizabethan England? It survived, although it lost every ounce of it earthly structures and hierarchy, because brave men crossed the English Channel to train in seminaries, knowing that in doing so, they signed their own death warrants.  It survived through a network of laypeople who hosted and hid those priests, and continued to be Catholic.  They ended up winning, but it did cost people their lives. It survived because people believed.

I don't want our bishops to protect buildings and power at the cost of covering up sin.  I want them to protect Holy Mother Church, especially from diabolical wolves in shepherd's clothing with banks of silver pieces to dole out to each and every Judas they can find. Holy Mother Church will survive. It is she who ends up married to Christ. We who are attached to her through faith and way of life enter the marriage feast with her. She doesn't bring stones of buildings, but the living stones of her We can not hold onto Holy Mother Church on one hand and hold the purse of the thirty pieces of silver in the other hand. To protect Holy Mother Church necessitates the dropping of that purse and every bit of ill gotten gain bought with it.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We Dropped Our Guard

As a priest, I have come to view the Book of Blessings as a banal collection of lukewarm sentiments that could have been written by a greeting card company.  The point of each blessing is blessing the person or blessing the person who uses whatever is being used. It is all a blessing to do good. Benign.  Lifeless. To look at the Book of Blessing one would think we are in a time of peace and all we need is that little extra oomph to be better at being good.

It reflected a worrisome trend that followed after the Second Vatican Council although it was not called for by the council. The trend is simple: we regulated the demonic and Satanic to almost the same level of danger of teddy bears.  They got regulated to mythological status bearing no more danger to the soul than puppies.  Our mention of evil, for the few times it comes up,  almost seems embarrassingly brief. It is  regulated to three hastily asked question before the profession of faith during baptism.  It is not as if we are inducting these newly baptized into the Church Militant, it is more like a benign ceremony inducting them into a country club.  The Dies Irae became Happy Happy Joy Joy.

That certainly flowed into art and architecture.  It is rare that churches are built and appointed to the extent that one gets a feeling of a connection to the power of the Church Triumphant, into the Heavenly Court populated by towers of faith, the angelic choirs, and the full power of God. No, we now enter rather largish theaters with all the transcendence of a doctor's office waiting room. Catholic art devolved into either highly disjunctive figurines that one has to try to believe was a human or angelic form, or subjected to milquetoast renditions of candy glass skinned dainty figurines. Our churches went from training grounds for the Church Militant to buffet lines for the Church Inoffensive. As in our prayers and rituals, so in our art and architecture, we dropped our guard. We willfully forgot that we are at war with an enemy whose only option is our eternal destruction.

Sooner or later, that would find its way into preaching and teaching. We now make friends with our sins.  We don't fight the demonic anymore.  We invite it, give a glass of sweet tea, and tell it to put its feet up!   How can we not look at the current state of the Church and see anything less?! Once again, our Church is rocked with scandal.  Sin was given a home in too many clerics' hearts and souls. The silence on moral issues was a warning sign that having made nice with their own demons, some clergy, even bishops, expected us to place nice with our demons.  Furthermore, they chastised anyone who called the demonic what it was.  Shame on us for our intolerance!  Personal sin and the preaching of it fell away to the much more comfortable corporate sin.  So, the sin of Sodom was unnatural sex, oh no, it was being inhospitable ...the people of Sodom know...not nice.  Dropping your guard against evil leads to an unbelievable inability to see truth.

We dropped our guard in every possible way against an insatiable enemy. The Devil and his minions have run over the Church with almost no effort to respond. He will continue to run rampant until we understand who we are, who he is, and who God is.

That we are at war with the devil has to find its way back into our common vocabulary and consciousness. In the old blessing prayers, there were exorcisms.  We chased the demonic out of what was being blessed before handing it into the hands a soldier for Christ. It needs to find its way into our art and architecture. We should visually understand the army of angels and saints who fight right by our sides in this struggle. We should find in it our music.  We are too busy singing commercial jingles about ourselves and how nice we can be to get who God is and who we are before God. In our worship and preaching we must re-establish that understanding that the Church asked for, especially of the laity: You are an holy army fighting against evil as light invades and overcomes darkness!

We can establish all the protocols and rules we want (and in many cases should), but we must be realistic about who we are up against. The Church Inoffensive would have you believe we are merely up against unjust structures and inequality...something that can be dismissed with protocols and procedures.  That has all the brilliance of saying I am up against these pock marks on my skin and not a virus that makes those pock marks appear.  We are up against the hellish, the demonic, against the father of lies himself.  He doesn't come in the form of the hellish creatures that populate horror films and juvenile caricatures splashed across your average death metal album cover.  He comes  as an angel of light, dressed up in all your worldly hopes and dreams.  He seems all so nice.  He seems so reasonable.

As a Church, we dropped our guard against the demonic.  We rid ourselves of the offensive military jargon and became the Church Inoffensive.  From that time on, we have seen the Church in the West be decimated.  Our Confession lines disappear, our Masses empty out, our seminaries empty out, our religious orders die, our parishes struggle, too many of our clergy become demonic in action themselves, and we double down on the same exact recipe for failure.  We are being laid waste because we drop our guard in exchange for worldly baubles and kitsch hoping the tenets of Universalism are true and we all go to heaven anyway.

As we lay among the wounded on the battlefield looking for someone to blame, perhaps instead of blaming God, we should blame our adversary the devil. God didn't point us in this direction.  The smoke of Satan has entered the Church through the doors and windows we opened for him to enter through.  If we don't like the resulting destruction, then perhaps, we need to start fighting back.  We need to be building ramparts against evil instead of accommodating it.

How do we fight back? Use the armaments St Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:11-12.  Pick up the weapons of abstinence, fasting, mortifications, and alms-giving with the same valor that a star athlete embraces exercise and training in order to be more effective on the field. Unite yourself to the champions that have gone before us, especially the Blessed Mother. Pick up the Rosary as a warrior would pick up a mace to drive back the demonic.   Our fight isn't against flesh and blood, it is against the demonic and satanic. These tools detach us from the candy coated poisonous temptations that the devil offers us. They drive him back.

Finally we must start calling the truth truth again.  We dropped our guard when we allowed in artificial birth control, abortion, every deviation of sexuality we could imagine, cohabitation, pornography, fraud, and whole litany of evil. These are every bit effective as Oijia Boards and other occult accoutrements for inviting the devil into a place in our life. Truth will lead us to humility.  Humility will allow us to pursue reconciliation (especially sacramentally) and regain our strength to get back on the field of battle. This, by the way, is why the devil tempts us so on not going to Mass and Confession.  The enemy hardly wants us to find the field hospital.

We are at war.  We will be until Christ come again.  The Church in the west had better come to grips with that soon and very soon before the Church in the west becomes so ineffectual that it dies altogether. You want strong priests and vocations?  Start encouraging the courage needed.  We are training soldiers in a theater of war, not concession stand attendants in a theater of song and dance.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bartimaeus And Reconciliation

This is the the homily given for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Have you ever wondered why there are so many stories of healings in the Gospels? What is the purpose? They can come across as stories to tell us what a nice a caring guy Jesus was.  Is that it?  Or is there more going on?

In the Gospels, everything that Jesus says and does points to His central mission.  From the Incarnation through the preaching of the Gospel through the Passion and Death through the Resurrection and past the Ascension, it is made clear that everything Jesus says and does points to the reconciliation of God and humanity through the forgiveness of sin.  He wants this so much that on the very day of the Resurrection, in the Gospel of John, Jesus charges His apostles to forgive sins in is name. So how do the miracle stories such as the story of Bartimaeus from today's Gospel point to that?

In the Scriptures, disease was seen as a symbol of sin. Blindness was seen in this way.  Blindness reduced its victim to a life reduced to begging.  When Jesus gives Bartimaeus his sight back, He is doing more than restoring use of his eyes, He is restoring him to everything lost by the blindness. For that blindness to be alleviated, steps must be taken first.  First, Bartimaeus must recognize the obvious fact that he is blind. Second, he must have hope that Jesus can cure him. Third, he must approach in faith for that cure. Finally, fourth, he must live anew as one who can see.

The first step is that of humility. He must recognize that he is blind and that this blindness is not to his good. This is instructive to us. Humility is honesty before God.  In humility we see where we are strong, but we also see where we are weak, where we fail, where we need healing, and how these things are holding us down. Humility will lead us to hope.  As Bartimaeus hopes that Jesus wants to cure him and can cure him, so we must have hope that Jesus does want to cure us and in doing so, reconcile us to the Father. Are these not necessary towards making a good confession?  We must have the courage to cry out as Bartimaeus did, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  We must realize what he did: Jesus can save us and wants to do so.

Jesus does want to make us whole through the forgiveness of our sins. He beckons for us when we call out for Him.  One of my primary jobs as a priest is to say ,"Get up, take courage, Jesus is calling for you!"  It is what I am doing at this moment! It is what I do every time I teach and preach about the sacrament of Reconciliation. Don't let the fear that you can't be forgiven keep you silent on the side of the road! Don't let the demonic lie that God doesn't want to forgive you still your tongue from calling out for the mercy of the Son of David! Do not let the delusional deceit of pride quiet your will believing that you are not blind. Jesus is calling you: Take courage...get up!

Notice that Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants Him to do?  Could Jesus not see that he was blind? The next step for Bartimaeus is that of faith.  Humility and hope have led him to this encounter with Christ!  Let faith in the power of Christ through the sacraments He Himself gave us lead you to the place to be able to say in the confessional . Master, I want to see!" When we confess our sins, have sorrow for them, and wish to be free of them, we tell Christ we want to see. Christ does not force His grace upon us, we must ask in faith for that grace.  He is all too happy to give it to us if we wish to be truly free of our sins and its attendant blindness. Notice the words of Jesus, "Your faith has saved you."  Jesus responds to our humility, hope, and faith with His power to restore us to the Father.

The story is not over though.  What does Bartimaeus do next?  Does he go back to the roadside and resume begging? Does he pluck his eyes out or blindfold himself because he missed the blindness. No.  We are told he starts to follow Jesus. Reconciliation through confession is not a call to pick where we left off. No, the conversion of heart is meant to draw us to the love that Christ lives and follow it in our own lives.  In our trip through humility, hope, and faith, we end up pursuing a different path set by the love of Christ.

This innocent enough story of a blind beggar is a call to conversion and reconciliation!  Let us be humble in understanding where we need to be healed.  Let us break the shackles of fear and pride, and place our hope that Jesus does want to heal us and restore us.  I bid you, "Get up, take courage, Jesus is calling you!"  In faith, approach Him in Confession and tell Him "I want to see!"  The great truth is that He wants you to see as well. That is why He gave the Apostles the authority and duty to forgive sins in His name. If we are to pursue Christ and the life Hes ets us to, we must get up from the side of the road and ask for His grace.

Get up!  Take Courage! Jesus is calling you!
Tell Him , "Master, I want to see!"